Calif. Men Think YouPorn History Sniffing Stinks, File Lawsuit

LOS ANGELES—Last week, Forbes published an article outlining the tactics used by some websites to follow the online travels of visiting surfers. The headline—“History Sniffing: How YouPorn Checks What Other Porn Sites You’ve Visited and Ad Networks Test the Quality of Their Data”—focused on the adult tube site, but the article included mention of many others that use the “history sniffing” script that the sites have allegedly either created for themselves or had others create for them. The fallout from the news was swift. Two California men have now sued YouPorn over the activity.

“How does it work? It’s based on your browser changing the color of links you’ve already clicked on,” wrote Kashmir Hill. “A script on the site exploits a Web privacy leak to quickly check and see whether your browser reveals that the links to a host of other porn sites have been assigned the color “purple,” meaning you’ve clicked them before. YouPorn did not respond to an inquiry about why it collects this information, and tries to hide the practice by disguising the script with some easy-to-break cryptography.”

The revelation that this was happening came from a group of researchers at the University of California, San Diego, who had assessed several popular sites to see which were engaged in this sneaky activity.

“They found it on 46 other news, finance, sports, and games sites, reporting their findings in a paper with the intimidating title “An Empirical Study of Privacy-Violating Information Flows in JavaScript Web Applications,” wrote Kashmir.

The origins of the script, and its adoption and use by the sites, makes for interesting reading but it’s the current fallout that has people talking.

Monday, two men from Newport Beach, California sued YouPorn in federal court, accusing the site of “violating the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and California's computer crime law; [and] engaging in deceptive and unfair business practices; and of unlawful and unfair competition,” according to

The plaintiffs, David Pitner and Jared Reagan, are seeking class action status for the suit.

According to the complaint, “Plaintiffs and members of the proposed class bring this action to redress this illegal and intrusive scheme designed by Defendant to peer into their personal lives and collect personal information about them.

“Particularly troubling, however," the complant continues," were the clear attempts on Defendant’s part to disguise its operation and hide what it was doing from its website visitors, including Plaintiffs.”

The lawsuit can be read here.

The History Sniffing study can be read here.